By Mike Jiggens
ALTHOUGH golf has been granted exception status under Ontario’s new cosmetic pesticide ban act, it’s not to suggest golf courses throughout the province can continue to enjoy the status quo.
Speaking in January at the 2009 Ontario Golf Course Management Conference & Trade Show in Toronto, Teri Yamada, former managing director for golf industry and government relations for the Royal Canadian Golf Association, said golf courses and superintendents have important work to do over the next few years if they wish to maintain their exception status.
“The bottom line is golf has an exception, but, where the rubber meets the road is in the regulations, and that’s what we have to deal with,” she said.
The act’s regulations were expected to take effect by the end of March at the latest.
The golf industry must comply with three specific aspects of the act:
• All golf courses must become integrated pest management (IPM) accredited
• Records of all pesticide use must be kept, including notation to show how IPMâ€ˆis reducing such usage from year to year, and an annual report must be posted for public viewing
• An annual public meeting is to be held to review the report
Yamada said the golf industry finds the first two points acceptable, but the third remains “contentious.”
She spoke at the conference on behalf of the Ontario Allied Golf Associations which includes the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association, the National Golf Course Owners’ Association and the Golf Association of Ontario. Seven golf-related organizations belong to the association which banded together to present one unified voice during the deliberations leading to the creation of Bill 64 (now known as the Ontario Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act).
“It made it a lot easier so that various ministries as well as the regulators didn’t have to deal with a number of different people,” she said of the strategy for creating one all-encompassing voice for golf.
Several golf courses throughout Canada are already IPM-accredited and many others are in the process of doing so. Those which have not taken that first step have until one year after the regulations take effect to become actively enrolled in IPMâ€ˆaccreditation.
Accreditation is a four-step program. A representative of the golf course—normally the superintendent—begins the process by writing an examination. Assuming he or she passes the exam, the golf course becomes the IPM-registered property and the individual passing the exam is deemed the IPMâ€ˆagent for the property.
Once a golf course is registered, detailed records must be kept and submitted at the end of the year for the agent’s desk audit. Every three years, an IPMâ€ˆauditor will visit the registered golf course for an on-site audit and will look at the course’s operations, record-keeping and storage of pesticides. Auditors will also speak with turf maintenance staff because they will have to be trained in IPM as part of the process.
A golf course’s IPMâ€ˆagent must remain trained by obtaining the required number of continuing education credits (CECs) under the IPMâ€ˆaccreditation program. If the eight requiste CECs are not obtained annually, the agent has the option to write the exam again the following year. The cost for writing the exam is between $200 and $250.
Yamada said that because the IPMâ€ˆauditors are independent, “it gives us teeth with government.”
Agents will be required to maintain forms throughout the IPMâ€ˆaccreditation process. Scouting reports will be required along with information pertaining to diseases, insects, weeds, temperature, precipitation, relative humidity and soil temperature.
“That will help the auditors understand why you are treating a certain area.”
Forms will also need to be filled out to detail both boom and backpack sprayer calibration as well as the listing of active ingredients used and treatment schedules for “hot spots,” noting such information as nutrient management and disease, weed and insect management programs.
An annual pest control product usage report is required to be posted on a publicly-accessible website and will be used as the subject for the public meeting. The report is to include the quantity in kilograms of all active ingredients applied during the year, a year-to-year comparison to explain why there may be a difference in the numbers from one year to the next, an explanation as to how IPM has minimized pesticide usage, how IPMâ€ˆis expected to further minimize usage, maps indicating where products were applied, and information denoting the IPMâ€ˆagent and how he may be contacted.
Yamada said work is still being done on the usage report’s documentation.
“All that information will be, hopefully, in a fairly easy-to-use format so that you can log everything for this requirement.”
The annual public meeting portion of the act has become a sour point within the golf industry.
“I’m hoping this doesn’t happen, but if it does we’ll have to deal with it,” Yamada said.
In a letter to Robert Bilyea, senior policy adviser for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Ken Cousineau, executive director of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association, wrote: “Holding public meetings is counter to the original intent of Bill 64 as expressed by the province. Bill 64 was introduced with the explanation that it would replace the patchwork of municipal bylaws so that all communities are treated equally. Public meetings have the potential to ensure that this emotional issue is opened up annually, in most Ontario municipalities, pitting neighbour against neighbour every year.
“Golf courses located in a community where a particularly passionate anti-golf activist may reside will be treated quite differently than other communities. Mandatory advertising of these meetings could provide anti-golf activists from outside the community, intent on protesting all aspects of golf operations, with a public forum every year.
“The requirement for an annual, mandatory public meeting at each golf course is tantamount to downloading the regulation of golf course pesticide use from the ministry to members of the public, who may be uninformed or biased. The argument that public meetings provide an opportunity for golf course management to inform the public assumes those in attendance wish to be informed. Municipal public meetings on the subject of pesticides have proven that this is not always the case.
“The Ontario Allied Golf Associations respectfully requests that the provisions of the draft regulation that would require annual public meetings and the posting of the annual report in a building accessible to the public be removed from the regulation. The Ontario golf industry remains supportive of the efforts of the MOE to reduce pesticide use through IPM, as a science-based solution.”
Notice of the public meeting must be given 15 days in advance, in the local newspaper.
Yamada said the Ontario Allied Golf Associations felt the posting of the mandatory reports on a publicly-accessed website should have been sufficient.
“We thought that was enough transparency because anyone can go to that website and take a look at your report. They (provincial government) didn’t think that was good enough because they said a lot of people question IPM.”
Many people refuse to rest until they see zero pesticide use, she said, adding as long as they know pesticides are still being used, golf courses remain suspect.
Yamada said the MOE believes the best way to show the public what is being used is to not only post the data on a website, but to bring people onto the golf course property so that they may discuss the annual report with the IPMâ€ˆagent.
The process leading up to the provincially-mandated regulations was often an exercise in frustration, she said.
The roots of the golf industry’s efforts began after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2001 to support Hudson, Que.’s right to enact a bylaw restricting pesticide use within its boundaries.
When the Dalton McGuinty-led Liberal government in Ontario campaigned in 2007 to introduce a province-wide cosmetic pesticide ban, the golf industry felt somewhat encouraged.
“We were encouraged by that, but wanted to make sure that if this was going back to the province we could still have access to these tools—the pest control products—for golf courses,” Yamada said.
In January of 2008, the province’s pesticide proposal was posted on its Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) registry website, requesting public input from Ontarians. The posting generated more than 1,000 responses, most of which favoured a province-wide cosmetic pesticide ban.
The comments generated from the EBR posting served as the basis for Bill 64. Yamada said the golf industry would have to work with the province and began consultations, but “they didn’t listen a whole lot.”
It quickly became a political bill and not one based on science, she said.
“Once we recognized it was a political bill, science didn’t necessarily go out the window, but it didn’t hold a lot of power when they came down to the final wording of the bill.”
She said the industry didn’t have many allies on the government side during the deliberations.
“Some of the discussions were quite incredible and got very heated. In fact, some of them were almost laughable. One of my favourite ones—there was an MPPâ€ˆfrom the Toronto region who expressed grave concern for golfers becaue he truly believed that golf causes obesity. How that ever got into the debate on Bill 64, I don’t know, but that was the sort of sentiment we had to deal with as they were discussing a bill to ban pesticide use for cosmetic purposes.”
Yamada said the bill went through provincial Parliament quickly, got “jammed through” and received royal ascent last June 18.
Even though golf courses have been granted exception status, pesticides can be applied only to areas of the property considered to be in play, including tees, greens, fairways and roughs. Pesticide use is banned in both the landscaped areas of clubhouses and at golf course entrances.